Over the weekend I learned about the The Division 2 free weekend. I remembered generally liking the The Division 2 open beta, so I decided to download it and take advantage of the gift. (I wish I’d known that the free “weekend” had actually begun last Thursday.)
I proceeded to play for about seven hours on Saturday and Sunday, making my way to level 8. I enjoyed it so much I considered buying it, since it also happens to be on sale right now. (The standard PC version is $21 for the rest of the month.)
Unfortunately it turns out that The Division 2 is “that game.” The game that definitively informs you that your gaming PC is getting too old to run the cool new games out of the box. It used to happen at least once a year, then it was every two years, now I’ve managed to get to three years. I can technically run it on High settings, but the frame rate dips down into the 30s or below, which is entirely unacceptable for a shooter. The only way I can run the game at a solid 60 fps is to drop a lot of the settings down to Low. And it’s not even a very solid 60 fps. Beyond even the frame rate, there’s just something about the game that feels sluggish, no matter what I do.
What’s even worse is that I usually record the games I play, especially new ones I’m just starting out with. When I add OBS recording on top of playing the game, the situation gets even worse. Not only does the game stutter and chug sometimes, but OBS itself stutters and chugs and can’t keep up with the frame rate.
Personally, I don’t think the game is optimized very well. My gaming PC is far from state-of-the-art, but it’s not exactly an entry-level rig either. It’s a 16GB Core i7-6700K and GeForce GTX 1070 I got in 2016, which runs most games I’ve thrown at it pretty well. Destiny 2, by comparison, runs flawlessly at a rock-solid smooth-as-butter 60 fps (and higher), while recording with OBS.
Unfortunately, I like The Division 2’s gameplay mechanics better than Destiny 2. They are both essentially the same game-shoot things, unlock new areas, get new guns. (The template for all future MMORPGs, apparently.) The big difference for me is that The Division 2 uses a third person camera and cover mechanics, while Destiny 2 is entirely first person run-and-gun gameplay.
When done well, cover mechanics feel a lot more natural to me than running around out in the open like a sitting duck. I’ve always been a very defensive-minded shooter player, going all the way back to Quake CTF. I never liked to be the chaotic one sprinting into the enemy base dying over and over again. I was usually the one defending the base, building up armor and health and staying alive as long as possible.
So in Destiny 2, to play defensively, I have to run and dance and jig around all the time while shooting at the enemies, which is tiring. Whereas with The Division 2, I just crouch behind a barrier and move from cover to cover, and it’s much less work. And it just makes more sense, from a narrative and simulation perspective. Also, the animations of Parkouring in and out and around cover are more visually interesting to look at.
But I despaired that I couldn’t run the game well enough without upgrading my PC, something that is far outside my budget right now. Then it dawned on me that, these days, most PC games also run on consoles, too. I happen to have a PS4 Pro that I bought last year, mainly for the purpose of playing PS4-exclusive games. I wondered how the game would perform on the PS4.
So Sunday night I downloaded the The Division 2 free trial on PS4. It runs fantastic. Far, far better than it does on my PC. It looks like it’s running on pretty High settings at a smooth 60 fps. (The main reason I bought a PS4 in the first place was that I was blown away by the graphical fidelity of the The Last Of Us 2 demo.)
(I love writing “the The Division” and “the The Last Of Us” in sentences. For some reason I find it extremely funny.)
Sadly the The Division 2 sale on PS4 is $26 instead of $21, but I went ahead and bought it anyway. The only real drawback is having to play it on the icky PS4 controller, which is a torture device for my thumb. I have to limit my playing a lot more than I do with mouse and keyboard.
I also had to start over with a new character on PS4, but that’s not a big deal to me. It won’t take very long to get back to where I left off on the PC version.
In a nutshell, The Division 2 is a fun little game that doesn’t require a lot of thinking, and it has a satisfying level of single-player progression that you can work through at your own pace. I find it pretty enjoyable to run around the DC streets making all the little civilian NPCs’ lives better by unlocking shelter improvements. It’s a great jump-in-jump-out game.